April 24, 2009
Ypsilanti, Mich. - By scoring a run in the first inning for the ninth time in the last 10 games, and pushing runs across in the next two innings, the Northern Illinois baseball team was able to take the first game, 5-2, of a three-game Mid-American Conference set against Eastern Michigan on Friday evening at Oestrike Stadium behind a strong pitching performance from Chuck Lukanen (Lombard, Ill./North Iowa Area C.C.), who tallied a season-high 10 strikeouts, and a powerful performance by Matt Behren (Elmwood Park, Ill./Holy Cross), who homered twice.
"That was an outstanding performance tonight from Chuck Lukanen," said NIU head coach Ed Mathey. "He threw the ball great. He kept them off balance. He wasn't always ahead, but he did a great job, he was outstanding."
Lukanen (5-5) earned the win to even his record on the year as he dominated by tossing a season-high 8.1 innings, allowing two earned runs on eight hits and three walks. After giving up a run in the first inning on two hits and a walk, Lukanen settled down, scattering six hits in the next seven frames, allowing one walk, and recording eight strikeouts. He then was taken out of the game after allowing a one-out walk in the ninth as Tom Zelasko (Lansing, Ill./Mt. Carmel) entered to close it out for NIU, and he did despite giving up back-to-back singles right away to allow EMU to get within three runs. He recovered to strike out the next batter and got a foul out to first base to end it. Lukanen's 10 strikeouts mark the first time an NIU pitcher has done so since Matt Jernstad did it against Ball State last year in the MAC tournament on May 23 when he had 12 strikeouts.
Behren backed up Lukanen with a career-day as well, going 2-for-3 with two runs, a walk and three RBI that came on a pair of homers. He had never had a multi-homer game before today and now has five long balls on the season, which is a career-high as he had just two career homers entering this season.
"Matt had a great night," Mathey said. "Both hits were opposite field homeruns so he stayed on the pitches well. We needed every one of them because it got a little hairy there at the end."
Dave Reynolds (Orland Park, Ill./Sandburg) also helped out the NIU offense as he extended his hitting streak to nine games in which he has 21 RBI after going 3-for-4 with a run, two RBI and his fifth homer of the year. Additionally, Pat Minogue (Crystal Lake, Ill./Central) went 2-for-3 with a walk, while Alex Jones (Kansas City, Kan./Piper) had a hit and a run.
The Huskies (15-23, 6-9 MAC) jumped out to a `1-0 lead in the first frame with an RBI single by Reynolds, but the Eagles countered with an RBI single by Aaron Powell. Then NIU pulled away by getting a run in the second on Behren's first homerun and two more in the third on Behren's second homer. Reynolds added another Huskie homer in the seventh to make it 5-1 in favor of the Huskies before EMU got one run back in the ninth on Jim Gulliver's RBI single.
"After the first inning, Chuck kept putting up zeroes for us and the offense did a good job of getting some runs and keeping the momentum," Mathey said. "Tom Zelasko did a good job out of the bullpen, too. It was a good win to get on the road on a Friday against the defending champions."
Corey Chaffins (2-3) took the loss for the Eagles (11-28, 5-11 MAC) after throwing seven innings and allowing five earned runs on eight hits and three walks with eight strikeouts.
The EMU offense was led by Gulliver's 3-for-5 game with a run and an RBI, while Matt Skirving and Kyle Rhoad each had two hits.
The teams play again tomorrow at 2 p.m. CT and Sunday at 12 p.m. NIU RHP Chris Wakefield (0-3, 7.82, 25.1 IP, 30 H, 17 BB, 8 SO) will matchup against EMU RHP Jordan Glover (2-3, 6.35, 28.1 IP, 35 H, 19 BB, 22 SO) on Saturday, while EMU RHP Tim Combs (0-6, 6.75, 34.2 IP, 39 H, 27 BB, 22 SO) will take on NIU's starter that has not be named yet on Sunday. Both games will have live stats available on www.emueagles.com.
- NIU scored a run in the first inning for the 20th time this season.
- The Huskies have had a player get multiple hits in all but three games, led by Jordin Hood's (Hawthorn Woods, Ill./Lake Zurich) 18.
- Hood was hit by a pitch in the third inning, marking his 21st HBP of the year, which leads the nation.